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Council in Focus

A brief recap of council meetings, as viewed from the gallery.

April 4, 2023 Edition

Event: Lions Bay Council Meeting

Time: Public meeting: 7:00 pm

Agenda: HERE

Video link: HERE


Present at the council table were Mayor Ken Berry, Councillors Neville Abbott, Michael Broughton and Marcus Reuter. Also present were Administrative Assistant Marina Blagodarov and acting CAO/CFO Ron Miller. Joining online was consultant Randy Diehl, as appointed by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.


This meeting had another packed gallery, with five attendees in human form, and at the high point, more than 40 joining via the ether.


It should be noted that despite of the First Nations Land Acknowledgement being approved at the last meeting, none was offered to begin this meeting. A few amendments were suggested and then the agenda was adopted.


Ministry of Municipal Affairs appointee Randy Diehl took the floor to introduce himself. He thanked council for accepting his attendance as a late addition to the agenda, and began with a short summary of his own background. Diehl hails from Kamloops, and has lived and worked all over the province, with time spent in Victoria, Whistler and Garibaldi Station among many other locales. With 37 years experience in the public sector, Diehl was semi-retired before beginning his consulting business. Diehl's varied career included working as a child protection worker, family councillor, and regional planner. On the management side, he's worked in both private and public sector, and with non-profits, Indigenous communities and his municipal experiences has been in both cities and towns.


Diehl noted that he works with a collaborative style. He added that while he values the opinions of participants, he ultimately takes direction from the provincial government. He anticipates the project to last from now until the end of June, with the possibility of an extension. He emphasized that he is only willing to offer his support if it is wanted.


Diehl said he is available to provide support, guidance and advice to both staff and to council with a focus on recruitment, team-building, legal issues, governance and strategic planning, as needed. He plans to offer two or three in-person workshops on the topics of governance and strategic planning after the by-election, but will offer an orientation meeting in the coming week with the existing council. He emphasized he takes an open, respectful approach to collaboration, and asked that of council in return.


Diehl set a date for the first orientation meeting, to take place in council chambers on April 13 at 6 pm, with all members of council agreeing to participate.


Public Participation:

  • Online, the frustration of aspiring resident Eric Upenieks was evident as he noted it's been two months since the building inspector resigned. On March 9, he received an email from acting CAO Ron Miller saying a certificate signed by an architect or contractor would be acceptable as a substitute. However, when he provided a certificate for both Kelvin Grove lots under development on March 22, he received no response. Subsequent to that date, five emails and two telephone calls received no reply. He questioned if this could be a dereliction of mayor and council's fiduciary duties.

  • Miller said he hadn't seen the email, and would look for it. Mayor Berry said that he could hear the resident's frustration, but under-staffing has been a problem. Upenieks noted that the delay is harming not only the residents, but the village itself, by delaying an increase in its' tax base. After repeatedly insisting that he was unable to get Upenieks' phone number, the Mayor apologized for the delay and pledged to get an answer as soon as possible. Councillor Reuter also apologized for the situation, and asked that Upenieks keep council apprised of the situation.

  • Online, resident Gail Craig made reference to the legal opinions cited in the March 24 Village Update regarding standing committees, the finance committee, and building bylaw inspections. She added that no legal opinion was cited regarding the authority of the acting CFO/CAO. Gail then cited the Village Update's reference to the Community Charter, and noted these sections of the Charter do not reference the “authority to hire” or “ensuring sufficient staff for those duties” as the Village Update indicates that they do. She then referenced the actual wording of sections 146-49 of the Community Charter.

  • Gail asked council to provide the legal opinion regarding the authority of the acting CFO/CAO as was done for the other legal opinions in the March 24 Village Update. And she further requested that council advise when they established the bylaw requirement, as per the community charter, in order to assign powers and duties for the new officer position of “financial controller”, as indicated by the hiring of Mr. Chirkoff in the same Village Update. She asked if there was any reporting out update from the March 31 closed meeting regarding this new position.

  • In response, the Mayor cited a council motion that was made and approved on April 24, 2018, where "the Chief Financial Officer was appointed to the role of acting Chief Administrative Officer and Corporate Officer during any CAO's vacation or sick time. So they basically gave the control at that time to the CAO." He said that council has a legal opinion that references the CAO's authority, and that the details of past contracts including former CAO Tobin's contract all have bearing on that authority.

  • On a point of order, Reuter objected both to the Mayor "once again sharing information out of a closed meeting" and to the accuracy of said information. This was followed by a considerable back-and-forth between Reuter and Berry, with Berry insisting that contracts written to staff take precedence over council authority. Councillor Abbott noted that after the March 31 special council meeting, it was reported out that council did not agree to the appointment of the CFO. In the uproar that followed, the only voice that prevailed belonged to Reuter, who noted that contracts do not take authority over the village by-laws and the local government act.

  • Online, resident Norma Rodgers began by thanking council for passing an improved garbage bylaw, allowing the ticketing of repeat offenders, and hoped this will mean no bears will be killed this year. Her first concern related to the cost to terminate the former CAO without cause, while 18 months remained on his contract. She noted that the contract payout would be based on deJong’s salary and longevity, and that he worked here for seven years at about $140,000 per year. She said that while the village can't afford to pay a six-figure amount, this will still be required. Norma then made reference to the minutes from the February 7 meeting, where it was stated that council hired specialist lawyer Carmon Overholt to evaluate deJong’s contract, and noted that the village should expect significant legal fees to result. She filed a freedom of information (FOI) request March 13, to determine the full cost to the village of these fees, and added that since legal fees are budget items, they are part of the public record. She was told to expect a reply to her FOI no later than April 24. Norma said that the cost to dispute deJong’s contract will likely exceed last Council’s budget for legal fees, and wondered what services will be cut or taxes raised to pay for the decision to terminate deJong. Finally, Norma registered her displeasure that CAO Miller mentioned consultations with a lawyer regarding whether Rose Dudley’s opinion letter to Council is defamatory. She stated that Miller is spending village tax dollars to silence a 50-year resident, who holds a long history of volunteering for the village.

  • In response, Abbott noted that Norma made several valid points, and while he said he couldn't comment on the legal matter, he noted that the financial numbers will start to be released in next quarterly report. Reuter also weighed in with regard to the pulling of correspondence at the last meeting, which he termed a bullying tactic. He said residents should always have the right to speak to and be heard by council. Councillor Broughton gave his understanding of defamation, noting that if inaccurate information is spread that will affect the reputation of a member of council, that it is appropriate for the CAO to check it out. There was some back and forth on the subject of opinion versus potentially defamatory material. Berry spoke up to remind Norma that deJong's termination was a unanimous decision by council, and called for residents to support staff. Norma said that council should be supporting residents.

  • Online, resident Tamara Leger, said that her remarks would echo issues that have been raised earlier, and then referenced a legal letter from legal firm Young and Anderson to Mayor Berry, dated March 21, 2023, that she noted had been circulating through the village. She said that according to the letter, the offices of CAO and CFO are not currently legally occupied, as they have not been appointed by council. "Essentially this means a personal friend of the mayor has been allowed to take control of the Village, has gutted office staff, and has signing authority over village bank accounts without holding valid office." She asked council what action they were going to take to protect the village.

  • The mayor responded that Ron Miller is not a friend, but a professional who shares the same values as himself. Tamara replied that Miller was not appointed by council. In response, Abbott asked for a special meeting of council. Berry noted that there will be a meeting with Randy Diehl next week. Reuter said the legal opinion goes to the authority of the CAO and CFO, and echoed Abbott's call for a special meeting to ensure council is operating lawfully.

  • An online resident identified only as Melissa said she was speaking on behalf of numerous unnamed village residents with regard to a letter in the current council package from a resident stating that Mayor Berry said the Ministry of Municipal Affairs would pay for the election. The resident said she had reviewed the clips from that meeting personally, and didn't hear the mayor make that claim. Instead she said the wording was around how the Ministry would be paying for some assistance. She added that no one on council should be held accountable for the cost of the by-election, and then directed attention to Norm Barmeier, whose resignation prompted this by-election. She closed by thanking current council members and the Mayor for their service.

  • Broughton noted that there was confusion regarding the payment from the Ministry, and he had always believed the cost of the election would be borne by the village. Reuter said that the facts remain that on February 15, Berry claimed multiple times that the Ministry would pay for the election, and then stated the opposite in a recent council meeting. In response, Berry said "I have always believed that we would pay for our own election, and that the Ministry of Municipal Affairs would step in with an advisor. If I said otherwise, I apologize, I don't have a problem with that, but that's the way I've understood it all along." He noted that council needs to focus on the business of the village, and he is grateful that Randy Diehl is coming in to lend a hand.

  • The final participant was Norm Barmeier, who first spoke to the circumstances of his leaving council. He said he resigned because he wanted to get out of the way of change he couldn't align with, and that he found council's approach to be both radical and potentially expensive. He said he saw no spirit of collaboration or respect for anyone in the room, especially staff, and so he stepped away. He noted that he objected to Melissa's reference to the cost of the election, as he was within his rights to step down from a volunteer board.

  • With regard to the Klatt building project, Barmeier noted that since Broughton had suggested a Project Manager had been put in place, he wondered who that person is, and when were they selected. He also asked when the project will kick off, to ensure the grant money is not lost. He closed by asking when the minutes from five months of past meetings would be posted online.


Public Delegation:

Kambiz and Farrah Azordegan approached council as a delegation regarding their concerns about the parking lot in Lower Kelvin Grove. Kambiz, a 17-year resident of lower Kelvin Grove, broke with protocol and sat at the table with the councillors. He spoke to his frustration with the events in the parking lot across from his home. He said that during the day, the noise is so great from visitors that they are unable to open the windows while they are working from home. His complaints include noise at all hours, public nudity and urination, open fires, and aggressive behaviour. He said that when he approached visitors to ask them not to urinate in the parking lot, that they broke the windows of his home. Kambiz noted that his complaints, and those of his neighbours have fallen on deaf ears at council. He offered to join the Parking Committee to help find solutions.


Farah Azordegan stepped to the podium to echo Kambiz's statements. While she expressed concern that council appears to be overwhelmed with other problems, she stated that council needs to take note that the unreasonable activity in the lower Kelvin Grove parking lot has affected the quality of their life. Since the pandemic, the family work from home, and in the summer time, they have to cope with noise, dance parties and open fires, day and night. She says that both the family's work and private lives have been affected, as a result of little or no bylaw enforcement. She suggested that the impact on their lives and health has not been addressed, as council is distracted by other problems. She noted that council doesn't maintain the upkeep and trimming of trees around the Kelvin Grove parking lot, and between the overgrowth and the trash, the place looks like a jungle. She said her family's offer to pay to trim the trees has been ignored. Kambiz added that his daughter, a piano teacher in the village, has had her own work impacted by the continual noise.


Berry said that he hopes council will help with the trimming of trees, but agreed that council has a lot on their plate.


Following the Azordegan delegation, an unidentified man spoke up from the gallery on behalf of re-hiring the building inspector.

There were no minutes from previous meetings to review or approve, and therefore no business arising from the minutes.


Unfinished Business :

  • Reuter reported that he would report back to council in writing at a future meeting regarding the Vacancy Tax.

  • Miller said he will begin discussions of the budget at the next meeting.

  • Abbott reported that the Bird-Friendly event will be held with the participation of a number of local groups on May 13 in the village hall. The Invasive Species AGM is April 19, and Penny Nelson will report back to council with any results.

  • Abbott noted that he spoke to the Chief Electoral Officer, who told him a Volunteer Appreciation event would not conflict with the upcoming by-election, but that it was too late to organize something in time for the official Volunteer Appreciation week.

  • Much discussion arose around the idea of holding an All-Candidates meeting in the village hall. Abbott said the Chief Election Officer (CEO) clarified that since the village currently has an independent CEO, the municipality can hold such an event. In the end, a motion carried that Miller would reach out to Dennis Back (who facilitated the debate at the last election) or another independent facilitator to set up an All-Candidate's event.


Reports:

Staff Reports:

  • The 2023 Draft Water, Solid Waste and Sewer Budgets were received for information purposes. Miller noted that there were no significant changes from last year, resulting in a 0% increase in water user rates. Abbott raised questions about changes resulting from the switch in the bylaw with regard to firefighter-occupied suites being not subject to the surcharge, and changes in salaries and benefits reflecting staff shortages. Abbott said the forecasted budget doesn't make sense, and needs further explanation. In the end, council tabled the budget to the next meeting so the Works Manager can be present to answer some of these outstanding questions.

  • The motion passed for council to authorize staff to issue a purchase order number to Emergency Operations Committee (EOC) to a maximum of $50,000 for emergency purposes, a purchase order number to Emergency Social Services (ESS) to a maximum of $35,000 for emergency purpose, and investigate and issue prepaid credit cards to ESS totalling $4,500. After a great deal of discussion, the motion passed, with Reuter voting against.


Mayor's Report:

Broughton attended Translink and Metro Vancouver meetings on behalf of the mayor. From the Translink meeting, he reported intensive discussion about the connection between transit and housing, and how funds spent need to be closely aligned with housing projections over time. He said there is a strong initiative on part of the province to bring down a number of housing edicts, which need to be done in concert with the transit. At the Metro meeting, Broughton said it was interesting to see how all municipalities are striving to meet the provincial mandates for increased housing. Broughton said that there is a lot of interest among Lions Bay residents to find ways to provide additional housing for families with laneway housing and suites.


Council

  • After discussion of the history of the event, council decided to ask residents for nominations for Citizen of the Year and Citizen of Distinction, and the motion passed, with a decision on dates and deadlines to be decided at the next meeting.

  • Abbott explained the history of revising the purchasing policy with regard to the Beach Park committee and the Climate Action committee. The policy is old and needs updating, but the question was whether staff or the committee members should make the changes. After much discussion, the decision was to first take this policy back to the committee to see if they can make recommendations for the climate action part, and second, that a new purchasing policy be formulated by staff, based on Municipal Accountant Hayley Cook's recommendations from 2018, and the the report from the Beach Park committee.

Emergency Services:

Resolutions: After much discussion, it was decided regarding the relaxation of the Noise Bylaw, that staff present a schedule for upcoming events for consideration by council. The two upcoming events on April 15 & 16 were sanctioned.

Bylaws : The Water Rates and Regulations bylaw amendment, the Sewer User Rates bylaw amendment and the Garbage and Recycling Collection bylaw amendment were all tabled.


Correspondence: General correspondence (beginning on page 58 of the agenda package) included a letter from Member of Parliament Patrick Weiler regarding public consultations about aging in place (p. 59); a letter from the Canadian Association of Radon Technologists and Scientists (CARST) with a survey on radon awareness, policies and action, (p. 60); a letter from the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) looking for delegates from the community (p. 62); from the Community Action Initiative (CAI) inviting community participation in a discussion of the opiod overdose crisis, (p. 66); a letter from E-Comm-911 looking for nominees to their board of directors at their annual general meeting (p. 69); a letter from Crain regarding staff recruitment (p. 79), and a letter from Metro Vancouver regarding their updated regional growth strategy (p. 80).


Resident letters came from Stan and Carolyn Ashcroft regarding long-standing issues with water infrastructure on Bayview Road (p. 82), from Rebecca Caspersen regarding irresponsible hikers blocking fire hydrants (p. 86), from Arlene Halstrom regarding council behaviour (p. 88), from Norm Barmeier about the importance to the village of applying for an infrastructure grant (p. 89), another from Norm Barmeier calling out council for neglecting to publish timely minutes and other meaningful public records (p. 91), and a letter from Norma Rogers specifying the exact times in the February 15 meeting that Mayor Berry claimed the Ministry of Municipal Affairs would pay for the upcoming by-election (p. 92).


In discussion of the correspondence, Reuter said that Broughton continues to offer comments that are not representative of the view of council. Reuter also complained that budget information should not be delivered at the 11th hour. Broughton noted that he sensed Eric Upenieks' frustration earlier in the meeting, but that he hadn't answered the email since council couldn't agree on a reply.


Abbott commented that Norm Barmeier brought up the disaster mitigation fund, and noted that the July 19 deadline requires action right now. He asked if there had been staff discussion, but Miller said he hadn't seen the email. After much discussion, Abbott, Reuter, and Miller agreed to meet with the Works Manager to discuss options, and then for council to reach out to potential grant writer.

New Business:

Reuter asked to call a special closed meeting with regard to the authority of the CAO to appoint the CFO. Abbott pointed out that if two councillers want to call a special meeting, a motion is not required, as they must make the request in writing if it has been denied in person. After more discussion, there was no agreement to meet on this topic.


In a break from the trend over recent meetings, there were no public questions in the final session, and so the public element of the meeting closed after two hours and 50 minutes.


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Os comentários foram desativados.

Thank you again kc! While I attend these meetings (via the ether), I still manage to miss some points and comments that you capture. I so appreciate these summaries and marvel at your skill in reporting them. Also there is no excuse for mayor and council not offering a First Nations Land acknowledgement! Thank you for pointing that out kc.

Curtir

Thanks so much, KC. Another succinct report capturing all the council meeting action from a non-biased, reportage perspective!

Curtir
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